After a sometimes heated discussion, the Evanston Township High School and District 65 school boards agreed this week to standards for reporting progress toward their goal that all students be proficient readers by 12th grade.

In reviewing a reading report last October, members of both boards were concerned that many 8th grade students considered to be reading at grade level based on the Mastery of Academic Progress test given in the spring at D65 were not considered to be reading at grade level when given the Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading the following fall at ETHS.

ETHS offers reading supports in the summer before ninth grade as well as during freshman year to students who are not reading at grade level. The difference in measuring proficiency meant that some students aren’t offered reading support until well into the ninth grade year.

Frustrated with the information provided, both school boards requested reporting that allows members to consistently assess both districts’ progress on the literacy goal.

In response, Stacy Beardsley, District 65 assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Peter Bavis, ETHS assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, reported Monday that a MAP reading RIT score of 227 represents a “similar level of difficulty as the STAR grade of 8.7” and  will be used in reporting progress on the literacy goal.

Mark Metz, ETHS board member, said that, based on a reading report presented to the ETHS board in January, “five years into the literacy goal, roughly 40 percent are entering this school not reading at grade level.”

Beardsley said that a RIT score of 227 means that about 65 percent are reading at grade level and about 35 percent are not.

Metz asked if kids in K-4 are reading at a higher level now than five years ago when the goal was set.

Beardsley said that recent testing shows positive results for children who were not kindergarten ready but performance for grades 3 and 4 is flat.

Mark Metz.

“As a board member, I’m very concerned about outcomes and results,” Metz said, and it’s not getting better.

“If I had hair, it would be on fire. Everybody in this community ought to be really upset about this. This to me is a crisis.”

“This is an area of great urgency for us,” said Beardsley. “Setting the benchmark at 65 percent sets a high standard for students that we believe they can achieve.”

“This goal goes back to 2014 and here we are five years later still trying to align assessments,” said Gretchen Livingston, ETHS board member. She asked for reports that apply this standard to data from the last five years.

“Is this adequate to get kids placed appropriately,” said Metz, “or should we bring middle schoolers to the high school on a couple of Saturdays to do STAR? Is there no common assessment we can give to all the kids?”

Beardsley said District 65 is doing a comparison study of MAP and STAR to understand whether STAR will work as well and have enough benefit to justify the effort required to make the change. An outside group is doing the study and she expects to have the results by the end of this year.

“I want to say thank you,” said Jonathan Baum, ETHS board member.  “I’m probably the least frustrated person in the room right now. The immediate charge we gave you had to do with measurement, not with success. We asked for tools to measure progress” and we have them.

Jude Laude.

“All decisions should be be student-centered so that children can be adequately placed,” said Jude Laude, ETHS board member. “We can’t afford to waste time.”

“I’m finding it hard to understand how we can remain flat for five years. There are children whose lives are at stake and people are walking around comfortable,” Laude said.

“I’m ashamed. We all have to bear the burden. We are in crisis in one of the most livable places in the United States.”

“I don’t think it’s a question of resources. I think it’s a question of dysfunction,” he said. “With five years of being flat, some people are not coming through and it’s not the kids.”

“How do we get those years back?” said Pat Savage-Williams, president of the ETHS board. “What can we do?”

“Just to be clear, we’re not on track to meet the literacy goal,” said Bavis, though there is an uncompromising support for literacy at the high school.

He said the disciplinary literacy program will be expanded to include culinary, engineering and music summer classes available to 6th through 8th graders and a dedicated literacy center will be opened at ETHS next year.

“The data doesn’t have to be perfect to leverage organizational change,” he said.

Livingston also encouraged the development of interim targets that would be consistently and regularly reported. Beardsley said those are already included in the District 65 strategic plan and Bavis said they have them and would be added to joint reporting.

D65 Superintendent Paul Goren said that each building leader is setting goals in literacy and math for students in the 25th percentile and below and 40th percentile and below.

I’m very worried that trying to make a bridge between assessments is dangerous,” said Patricia Maunsell, ETHS board member. We need to make sure we know which kids need literacy intervention before they get to ETHS.

Beardsley noted that the RIT score is from the spring and STAR score is from the fall and they tend to see a drop of 6 percent in scores over the summer.

“I assume the students we’re talking about are students of color,” said Monique Parsons, vice president of the ETHS board. “We have not figured to how to isolate those students and give them something totally different than what we’ve been giving them. We are not doing what we need to do for our students of color. I don’t want us to lose sight of the faces we’re talking about.”

Related stories

Reading goals elude ETHS (1/15/2019)

School boards frustrated by literacy report (11/1/2018)

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